Dan Zess never needed a lot of convincing that construction was for him. All he had to do was look around at his relatives and see the satisfaction they were getting out of their careers.
Growing up, Zess — now a superintendent at Gilbane Building Co. — had not only his father, a union mason, to look up to but also his maternal grandfather, an iron worker, and two uncles, one an electrician and the other a residential contractor. On weekends when he was young, Zess would often help his dad by laying brick and block.
“And my dad, when I was at a very young age, told me, ‘It’s way easier to work with your mind than with your back,’” Zess said.
So by the time Zess was ready for college, he decided to go to the Milwaukee School of Engineering to pursue a degree in civil engineering. That led to a job with Mortenson shortly after his graduation in 2006.
Zess found himself assigned to work on wind-farm projects, a job that took him to California, Texas and many states in between. Eager to return home, Zess eventually landed his current position in Gilbane’s Milwaukee office.
His job there has had him working on everything from Gilbane’s ongoing project to shore up Milwaukee City Hall’s sinking foundation to the expansion of the St. Camillus senior center in Wauwatosa with the addition of a 15-story tower and two floors of underground parking.
Zess said his work has never failed to live up to its promise.
“I love working with our craft guys out in the field,” he said, “and enjoying that give-and-take relationship with them and coming together as a cohesive unit and doing something no one person could do by themselves.”